Commentary

Plaintiff attorney’s statements exemplify courtroom tactics


 

“AFRAID OF GETTING SUED? A PLAINTIFF ATTORNEY OFFERS COUNSEL (BUT NO SYMPATHY)” JANELLE YATES (OCTOBER 2009)

Plaintiff attorney Lewis Laska’s comments are typical for a man who stands to lose a lot if there is any environmental change in the medical malpractice arena. I take great umbrage at many of his statements, and his use of adjectives and subjective coloring to slant the article shows his pedigree in the field of adversarial argument and jury persuasion.

For example, he says, “If ObGyns were more responsive to questions from their patients, and acted more kindly, patients wouldn’t be so eager to sue them.” I don’t know a single ObGyn who isn’t kind to his or her patients. We spend countless hours each week consulting and answering questions—at least in my county and practice—and trying to give the patient handouts, brochures, and other educational materials.

Dr. Laska also mentions “928 needlessly brain-damaged infants each year.” His use of the word “needlessly” colors the larger statement, but he offers no facts to back up his insinuation that physicians are responsible. Many of these so-called “needless” events are beyond the control of reasonable, caring physicians. In our hospital, we perform cesarean delivery immediately if there is any reasonable provocation.

I don’t discount the fact that injuries occur and mistakes happen. I once read that, for mankind to be completely free of mistakes, a different species would have to evolve. That said, my personal experience with litigation is that the attorney always finds a way to get paid. I have had to settle a case despite reasonable evidence that I was not responsible for any outcome and could not have changed the nature of the event. Pay an expert witness enough money, and that physician will make any expert statement against anyone. I have had patients tell me they love me and are suing other parties—and yet I ended up on the summons. Whose influence is responsible for that?

At my practice, we have model patients, as well as those who are noncompliant; poorly educated; difficult to reach, teach, and treat; and patients who, through no fault of mine or their own, have bad outcomes—that is the nature of biological systems.

Doctors are in practice; attorneys are in business. Remember that mantra, “Follow the money”? Therein lies the answer to so many problems in this country.

Jay Sean Rothberg, MD
Langhorne, Pa

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